Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

On Horseback at the End of the World

Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

On Horseback at the End of the World

Article excerpt

Mark Furler

PUMA! Puma! Puma!

The excited tones of a deep, male voice ripple across the mountainside as hotel guests and guides scramble outside.

There on a ridge, just a couple of hundred metres from our hotel, stands one of the a[approximately]ghosts' of Patagonia, Chile - an elusive mountain lion rarely seen during daylight.

I had literally come down from the mountain after meeting with a[approximately]Moses' - an American adventurer with a long white beard and the wooden stick to go with it.

I race back to my room to grab my camera before joining guides and hotel staff already on the hunt for the puma which disappears into bushland before emerging on another ridge in the distance.

The large, light brown cat's colours allow it to easily disappear into its bushland backdrop. But as it moves, it is easily spotted by binoculars or through a zoom lens.

Welcome to the end of the world - frontier country where condors with three metre wing spans soar above the snow-covered Andes.

Below them, the carcasses of wild llama-like guanacos are evidence of the pumas' presence. Its spring time and the lambs scurry across the hillside, ever aware of the danger present.

It's a place where horses still carry the daily wood supply, where power is generated by wood and gas from bottles, and where cowboys still share a morning smoko and strong tea.

Words are not enough to describe the scenery.

Towers of polished granite emerge above the whitest snow.

In the morning they are transformed to blood red as they reflect the rising sun. At night, the moonlight is enough to illuminate the white mountain tops.

The array of stars against the blackest sky is endless.

During the day, pink and white wispy clouds, blue and green glaciers, turquoise-coloured rivers, emerald green lagoons and waterfalls have you forever wowing at creation.

This is the place of endless postcards and where the most adventurous seek to conquer the coldest and wildest wind, rain and the snow to ascend the mountains.

Torres del Paine National Park is a world biosphere reserve - a place recognised by the world in 1978 - as something special, something sacred. Being there is a spiritual experience.

The South Tower (2850 metres or more than 9300 ft), the Central (2800m) and North Tower (2600m or 8528ft) are now world famous for trekkers and tourists alike.

"Stunning," is how Turner Wilson, of Brownfield, Maine describes the peaks.

"The geologic forces that created these particular mountains, I think, are exceptional," the 63-year-old American says.

Turner and his partner Cheri Perry travel the world teaching traditional kayaking skills, including how to roll them in wild waters.

They've visited Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Italy and Canada as well as extensively exploring their own wild rivers in North America. …

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